Sunday, April 30, 2006

Blogging about blogging and blogging about ethics

Maybe because I'm a fairly quiet blogger (OK, an awfully quiet blogger) I tend to be bored by conversations about blogging. (Not everyone shares that problem.) It sometimes gives me an outlet when I want to say something and I think it's too good to stay inside my head, but I don't think the invention of the blog marked the beginning of a New World Order.

But I am a little curious about two items that I have not seen juxtaposed.

First, over at the Volokh Conspiracy, it appears that the identity of Juan Non-Volokh will soon become public. The most informed (in the sense of, most researched) comments indicate that it is This Guy. One fact raised against that conclusion is that That Guy blogs elsewhere under his own name. So why, the argument goes, make a reasoned decision to blog anonymously in one place but not in another? There are counterarguments (ad infinitum) but I am not actually interested here in sorting through it all in a (colossally uninformed) attempt to identify Juan Non-Volokh. Rather, let us assume that it is him, and he is a (recently tenured?) law professor blogging publicly in one place and pseudonymously in another. Hold that thought.

Second, an LA Times reporter has gotten in trouble (i.e., suspended and re-assigned) because he was blogging publicly in one place and pseudonymously in another.

I don't want to blog unethically*, so I am curious to know what to think of this juxtaposition. Three possibilities present themselves as most likely: Juan Non-Volokh did something deceptive; or the LA Times incorrectly determined that its reporter had done something deceptive; or the LA Times reporter had taken some actions that JNOV had not taken (or failed to take some action that JNOV had taken, although that seems less likely). I believe I have posted comments on other blogs under my real name, so I want to know if I have done something wrong. Any thoughts?

*I use the word "unethically" with great misgivings, although it squares with most contemporary usage. I use it in the way in which lawyers speak of "legal ethics," which really aren't ethics at all, but are certain rules designed to serve as efficient means to certain (possibly incommensurable) ends: making sure you don't screw your client over; making sure your client doesn't think he's being screwed over; maintaining certain lay opinions about lawyers and the practice of law; etc. I leave for another day a full discussion of why this isn't ethics, as classically understood. Suffice it to say that Aristotle's three books (the Nicomachean and Eudemian Ethics and the Magna Moralia) propose no such rules. They engage in a more interesting and more intellectually honest study of the well-lived life (if such a thing should be possible).


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